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Calls for EU-led safe travel initiatives and continued support for tourism industry

Picture above: Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, TD. Image courtesy of Twitter.

Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin TD, urges closer cooperation on recovery at EU Ministers high-level meeting

The EU has been urged to consider ways to enable the recommencement of safe travel, as vaccine programmes proceed, so restrictions for travellers can be lifted in the not too distant future.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, TD, this morning participated in a high-level meeting of EU Tourism Ministers, to debate the supports, policy actions and EU tools needed in the short to medium term to assist in kick starting the EU Tourism industry.

Minister Martin not only urged the European Commission to consider initiatives to facilitate safe travel but also reiterated the continued need for robust supports for every tourism subsector.

She also called on EU colleagues, as we sow the seeds of recovery, to lay the foundations for a greener, healthier and more environmentally friendly tourism offering.

Close coordination between all of the EU Member States will remain crucial as we roll out the vaccination programme and hopefully move in the not too distant future to begin removing those travel restrictions now in place in our Member States and restore the basic right to freedom of movement which all EU citizens enjoy. The EU traffic light system for travel allows for a coordinated and standardised approach and therefore should remain as a key measure, as we hopefully move towards the end game of this pandemic,” the Minister told her EU Tourism counterparts.

The videoconference of EU Ministers centred on the state of play of the tourism sector and on the possible joint actions and policies to ensure sustainable, digital and competitive tourism in the short to medium term.

Ministers and member states were asked to consider the main lessons learnt from the last summer period that can further improve the free movement of people within EU internal and external borders and enhance the EU Single Market through Tourism.

Addressing her counterparts, Minister Martin also outlined the importance of maintaining connectivity for Ireland as well as the value of retaining skilled workers in the sector:

“We need to continue to provide the supports necessary to enable our aviation sector to survive and to maintain the necessary core capability to retain strategic connectivity. For island economies such as Ireland, it is essential that tourism is enabled by safe, competitive international access and connectivity.

“We must continue to provide supports for every tourism sub sector to ensure the industry and the tourism offering, isn’t massively diminished once the pandemic passes. The sector faces a significant challenge in acquiring and retaining staff with the appropriate skills. Many tourism businesses have already lost some of their best staff to other sectors, many of whom may not return to tourism due to job vulnerabilities exposed during the pandemic. Therefore it is vital that we support the sector to retain, upskill and reskill its workforce.”

A key area in enabling tourism’s recovery will be sustainable tourism, Minister Martin said:

“As look to stimulate and enable tourism’s recovery, we must not miss the opportunity to grow a more sustainable industry from the current crisis. It has never been more important that the recovery and regrowth of tourism is based on a sustainable and balanced approach. Ireland has the ambition to be amongst the world leaders in sustainable tourism practises and I am determined to develop a suite of actions to promote sustainable tourism practises in our country.

“Consumer research indicates that holidaymakers in a post COVID-19 environment will require a different experience and one that Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of. It is likely that we will see an increase in demand for outdoor leisure experiences, based on nature, such as walking, cycling and mountaineering. We need to implement policies that will support the development of eco-tourism, so as to build a greener, cleaner, healthier and more environmentally friendly tourism offering.”

Minister Martin thanked the Portuguese Presidency, for calling the meeting of EU Tourism Ministers, and for the opportunity to exchange experiences to date and to discuss possible next steps.

Full speech is available here.

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